Trayvon Martin shooting: Eric Holder says Justice Department will take 'appropriate action'

Eric Holder

WASHINGTON (AP) - Attorney General Eric Holder said Wednesday that the Justice Department will take appropriate action in the killing of Trayvon Martin if it finds evidence that a federal criminal civil rights crime has been committed.

The attorney general made the comments in an appearance before a civil rights organization founded by the Rev. Al Sharpton.

Holder said the department will conduct a thorough and independent review of the evidence in the Martin matter.

One of the department's top priorities, said Holder, is preventing and combating youth violence and victimization. The Justice Department launched an investigation of the Martin killing three weeks ago.

"I know that many of you are greatly - and rightly - concerned about the recent shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, a young man whose future has been lost to the ages," Holder told the 14th annual convention of the National Action Network.

"If we find evidence of a potential federal criminal civil rights crime, we will take appropriate action," said the attorney general. "I also can make you another promise: that at every level of today's Justice Department - preventing and combating youth violence and victimization is, and will continue to be, a top priority."

The attorney general says that Justice Department officials including Tom Perez, the assistant attorney general for the civil rights division, and U.S. Attorney Robert O'Neill from Florida have traveled to Sanford to meet with the Martin family, members of the community and local authorities. He says representatives from the department's Community Relations Service are meeting with civil rights leaders, law enforcement officers and residents to address community tensions.

Neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman says he shot Martin in self-defense after following the teenager in a Sanford, Fla. a gated community outside Orlando on Feb. 26.

He said he was returning to his truck when Martin attacked him and that he shot the unarmed teen during the fight. He wasn't arrested partly because of Florida's "stand your ground" self-defense law.

The lack of an arrest has led to protests across the nation and spurred a debate about race and the laws of self-defense. Zimmerman's father is white and his mother is Hispanic. Martin was black.

Special prosecutor to make statement

The special prosecutor in the shooting case says she will make an announcement about the case within 72 hours.

In a statement released late Tuesday, Prosecutor Angela Corey didn't specifically say what the announcement will be.

She is deciding whether to charge Zimmerman with a crime for fatally shooting the Martin.

The neighborhood watch volunteer says he was acting in self-defense when he shot the unarmed Martin on Feb. 26.

Martin's parents say Zimmerman attacked their son. The case has raised questions about racial profiling.

Martin’s parents and their attorney will be joined by Reverend Al Sharpton Wednesday afternoon for a press conference at the Washington Convention Center in Northwest.

Sharpton will reportedly respond to the announcement by Zimmerman’s lawyers that they’re dropping him as their client, after losing contact with him.

Zimmerman’s former legal team says they last spoke with him on Sunday, and suggests he may have left Florida but believe he’s still in the country.

They also believe he may have directly spoken to the prosecutor’s office directly.{ }

Martin was black; Zimmerman's father is white and his mother is from Peru.

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